CEDAR RAPIDS - Carlos Fornaris knew he'd have to leave home at an early age if he wanted to take this hockey thing as far as it would go. Unfortunately, there's little chance of developing your full potential when you live in Miami.
There's a lot of sun there, a lot of beaches. But not much ice, very few rinks and virtually zero quality competition.
"Washington is the fourth high school I have attended, actually," the first-year Cedar Rapids RoughRiders forward said. "Moving so much, I'm used to it by now. I know I have to do it because I love hockey. If I want to take it as far as I can, there's just not much competition in Florida."
He is learning there is a lot of competition in the USHL. The 18-year-old played his 16th game Friday night, a 4-1 loss to the Chicago Steel at the Cedar Rapids Ice Arena. He has five assists but is still looking for that first goal.
Fornaris isn't a big kid at 5-foot-8 and 157 pounds but has good skill, can skate and make plays. And his coach says he's got the heart of a lion.
"He works really hard," said Riders Coach Mark Carlson. "The thing I like most about it is that he really gets after it. He's got some grit to him, and I think he's got a killer instinct in there. For me, if you have a killer instinct, you have an opportunity to be great. If you don't have it, no matter what you do in life, you're going to be good, but that's it. You have no chance of ever being great. I think this kid's got a killer instinct, and as time goes on, you're going to see it come out."
Fornaris first put on rollerblades at age 5, then graduated to ice skates a year later. He learned the basics of the game from former Florida Panthers enforcer Peter Worrell back home but it was at Northfield-Mount Hermon prep school in Massachusetts where the RoughRiders learned about him.
If you're wondering why he gravitated toward hockey instead of baseball, like so many other Florida kids, credit his father, Carlos. The elder Fornaris is from Chicago and a Blackhawks fan.
"My dad's side of the family is all from Chicago, so they are all huge hockey fans," younger Carlos said. "We moved from Chicago to Miami, and he kind of got me into it. I loved it right away."
Fornaris is an RPI college commit, though likely won't head there for another season and a half.
"I'm still getting used to it, but there is nothing like this," he said. "Coming from prep school to this, every single player here has tremendous skills. You've really got to work your tail off just to get a couple of chances out there. But it has been so much fun. I feel like I'm developing as a player. (A playmaker) is what I've been before, and I'm trying to become one in this league, too. Right now, I'm just trying to do anything I can to contribute to winning."
"I never imagined my son, coming out of Miami Beach, would ever be in the position he is today, to be committed ... to a prestigious academic university rich in hockey tradition and success," Carlos Fornaris Jr. told www.floridahockeyadvisor.com. "To say it is a dream come true would be an understatement. The journey was an unforgettable one, with many highs and lows, which make the journey and prize at the end even more special and valuable."
The RoughRiders (13-8-1, 27 points lost for the fifth time in six games. Judd Peterson scored a goal just 1:29 in, but Andrew Poturalski couldn't convert on a penalty shot attempt three minutes later, and Chicago scored the final four goals for the win.
The Riders host Indiana on Saturday night.
Here is the official gamesheet: